Dec 12, 2018 | 3 min read

How an Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Approach Can Limit Software Success

By: Martyna Florczak

How an Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Approach Can Limit Software Success

Waterfall methodology emerged from the industrial world of assembly lines and specializations. With few known alternatives, the methodology was also applied to software development. Over time, however, frustrations from its many disadvantages, such as the inability to go back and change something or the length of time to get a working prototype up and running, led developers to lean toward more agile processes.

The difference between the Waterfall approach and Agile is that Agile prefers process over tools, collaboration over hierarchies, and rapid adaptation over adherence to plans. With its whirlwind of sprint cycles, scrum boards, feedback loops, and focused stand-ups, Agile is much closer to the way developers think. After 30 years of Waterfall, though, it can be hard to think differently. Many development groups get stuck somewhere between pure Waterfall and pure Agile, referring to their methodology as a Hybrid of the two.

If your team is running on some form of an Agile-Waterfall Hybrid framework, you might not be seeing the results you want because the approach is not efficient, productive, or customer-oriented enough. Here are seven clear indicators that your Hybrid is inhibiting your software success.

  1. If you refer to what you’re doing as “Hybrid Agile,” you should think deeply about what the other part of your hybrid is.
  2. Your team is unnaturally attached to Microsoft Project in all scenarios and creates unwieldy project plans that can’t account for any contingencies.
  3. You use project management mechanisms to figure out where to assign blame, instead of managing anything at all.
  4. Progress on your development projects tends to be spotty and intermittent, rather than smooth and intuitive. Maybe your team hasn't done a retrospective for six months out of fear of what you’ll find. Or developers are ghosting your stand-ups because they last over an hour. Or you haven’t presented a demo with new functionality in more than a month.
  5. In response to stakeholders or clients, you tend to build estimates for entire projects in a silo, which results in scope creep, cost overruns, and timeline slippage.
  6. Your team lacks fundamental trust in each other’s abilities, so they aren’t able to self-organize or commit.
  7. You just don’t like change, and you don’t want to let go of old project management methodology (that isn’t working.) You’re not alone, but the bad news is that the future of work will be somewhat uncomfortable, to say the least.

With pure Agile, your team will be far more likely to see the ripple effects of iteration. These include the ability to respond to rapid technological change in real time, generate value as requirements adjust to the new reality, engage team members to become full owners of the development process, learn from dead ends, bring customers into the design earlier and gain broader visibility into where the tech stack is headed.

Depending on where your team is now, you might be better served by Agile coaching during the transition. Another good option is handing off an entire project off to a pure Agile software development team that can set the standards and expectations for the future.

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